Marilyn Monroe’s Measurements: Was She Really a Size 12 – 16?

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marilyn monroe

Marilyn Monroe in 1962

There has been a lot of controversy about Marilyn Monroe’s size and measurements. No one really knows the true origin of the myths surrounding Marilyn Monroe’s size.

In Hollywood, new rumors and drama sparks up every single day. Marilyn is no exception to this. Even today, if you ask someone what they think Marilyn Monroe’s measurements were back when she was a model and actress, they will probably speculate or tell you she was a size 12-16.

Fortunately, some research has been done on Marilyn’s body type and her dress size. In this article we’ll take a look at some of the things that influenced her clothing as well as the actual measurements of one of her dresses to answer once and for all – did Marilyn Monroe’s measurements really equate to size 12 – 16?

Extreme Hourglass ShapeMarilyn Monroe’s body was very unique, representing an extreme hour glass. There have been a number of arguments as to what Marilyn’s size really was; a majority of people saying that she was a size 12 and some other stars recently claiming that she was a size 16.

Women’s sizes today are nowhere near comparable to sizes back in the 1950s. The number sizing system has changed significantly over the years. The United States Department of Commerce stepped in during the 1980s to completely change the sizing system used throughout stores. A size 8 today would be about a size 16 in the 1950s.

Dressmaker Measurements

marilyn monroe uso

Monroe appearing with the USO (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marilyn Monroe’s size was measured by one of her dress makers and released as 5’5” tall, 35” bust, 22” waist, and 35” hips. Her bra size was 36D. During Marilyn’s time, her waist was about 2-3 inches smaller than the average woman in America and by today’s average she was 12 inches smaller.

Marilyn Monroe’s measurements are unique and her star-status gave her the ability to spoil herself with custom fitted clothing. Any woman with the spectacular hourglass shape similar to Marilyn’s would have a hard time finding clothes that fit in a regular department store.

Throughout Marilyn’s career, she had a lot of weight fluctuations due to depression, illness, and other personal problems that she fought with during the final years of her life

The Myth of Marilyn’s SizePeople often talk about how Marilyn Monroe was about the same size as the average woman today, but it’s not true! Taking into consideration the fact that the sizing system was changed in the 80s, Marilyn’s size would be very small by today’s standards.

The average woman’s waist size today is about 34 inches whereas Marilyn’s waist size was only 22 inches. Models in her time had an average waist size of about 25 inches.

The Bottom LineSo with all this talk of the changed sizing system and Marilyn’s unique shape and size… what does all of this mean? It means that Marilyn Monroe’s size wasn’t anywhere close to the average woman’s size (12-16) nowadays.

Marilyn had a unique style, personality, and appearance. Today’s models may have tiny waists and wear sizes smaller than Marilyn, but Marilyn would still be considered beautiful.

Interesting Tidbits about Marilyn Monroe

  • On their deathbed, two men claimed paternity of Marilyn Monroe: C. Stanley Gifford and Edward Mortensen. Gifford is the man whom Marilyn and her mother both believed was her real father, yet would refuse to ever meet Marilyn while she was alive. Mortensen was married to Marilyn’s mother when she was born and it is also the name that is on her birth certificate (despite being misspelled).
  • Marilyn’s salary was nothing special in comparison to other actors and actresses who played roles in the same films as her. She made just $100,000 for her final unfinished film “Something’s Got to Give.”
  • She had trouble learning and remembering the lines to play her part properly.
  • Monroe had an impressive IQ in addition to her good looks. She tested at 33 points higher than the national average at the time. As she got older, though, acting took over and became more important than her academic pursuit because she wanted to follow her dreams.
  • Marilyn’s father disappeared before she was born and her mother was dealing with severe mental issues. She eventually was placed in a mental institution. At 16, Marilyn’s foster parents couldn’t even continue supporting her; they sent her back to the orphanage. She married a man named Jimmy Dougherty in 1942, who soon left to fight in World War II.
  • Dougherty and Monroe fought a lot about how scandalous she was in her photos and after, they never really talked to each other.
  • Hugh Hefner owns the burial site right next to Marilyn’s at the Westwood Memorial Park in LA, California. Hefner only paid $78,000 for the site in 1992. Several burial sites nearby Monroe’s and Hefner’s have gone for sale. The vault above Marilyn’s received a bid for nearly $4.4 million when it was up for sale.
  • Marilyn Monroe’s funeral had an open casket viewing. She was dressed in a green Pucci sheath dress and a platinum blonde wig.
  • Mariah Carey bought the white baby grand piano in an auction in 1999 for over $600,000.
  • Lee Strasberg’s third wife, Anna Strasberg, eventually took control of 75 percent of Monroe’s estate after Lee died.
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47 Comments

  1. Josephine

    Josephine

    September 11, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    My theory on Marilyn’s alleged 22″ waist is that she often wore a tight girdle.

    So the dress, which was measured by a dressmaker, indicating a waist of 22″, would have probably been fitted on Marilyn when she was wearing a girdle.

    Girdles can reduce the waist by several inches!

  2. Laura

    Laura

    September 9, 2016 at 10:09 pm

    Firstly. when people refer to Marilyn as a size 12-16 that actually makes sense as a US size 12 would equate to a UK size 16. I think that’s where a lot of the confusion lies.
    Secondly, the thing that annoys me most about this article is the bra size they equate to Marilyn. Being 34-22-36 (whatever they claim Marilyn was) does not equate to being a 36 back and whatever cup (36D as they claim she was in this article). If Marilyn was as small as is claimed, there is NO WAY she was a 36 back when it comes to bra sizing. The way bust is measured in this instance is around the fullest part, so the 36″ would have probably equated to around a 30F (not an exact science but an educated guess based on the rest of her measurements), not a 36D. I’m a modern UK size 14 (a US 10?) and I am a 32 back.
    People don’t realise that cup sizing in bras doesn’t mean anything without a back size. a 36D is the cup size equivalent of a 30F.

  3. Tess

    Tess

    August 30, 2016 at 1:25 am

    This is definitely not true. A lot of women wear the wrong bra size so that’s plausible (although the cup size seems too large) , but 22 inches is just wrong. At her thinnest I could see 24 inches being true, but generally I would say 26. If her waist was 22 inches you would be able to see her bones and the contrast would be extremely stark. It’s easy to tell that just from being visually, clearly smaller than her but still not having a 22 in waist. If you keep track of these things it’s not hard to tell that almost all celebrities’ reported body stats are wrong.

    • NIKKOLA PETERSON

      NIKKOLA PETERSON

      September 2, 2016 at 5:05 am

      So true , im 5’51/2 and when i was young my waist was 24 inch and that was a size 5. Theres no way she has a 22 inch waist with a D cup!

    • reginald w

      reginald w

      September 8, 2016 at 6:32 am

      Clearly you know nothing about body types. It is totally possible to have a 22 inch waist and and hour glass figure. I am a man and modeled in the seventy. At my smallest I had a 25 in. waist and I did not look like skin and bones. I knew several models with 22 to 24 in. waist and full breast and hips. That was at the end of the hour glass era and most with this shape modeled swimwear like me. I was not very tall so, I only did photo work.When I got older and gained weight, I looked fat at 145 pounds and a 30 in. waist. I am not very tall but my body type made me photograph much taller than I am. Just like M.M. Most body types 10 pound do nothing and you look the same, but with others that is enough to make you look very different.My own mother wore a size 2 to 4 and had a E cup and a 35 in. hip . She never look skinny. She had to have all her clothes altered or made. She was about 110 to 120 pounds at her heaviest. So it is possible.

  4. Old Bold USAF Fighter/Recce Pilot

    Old Bold USAF Fighter/Recce Pilot

    August 27, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! I doubt that the average male GI gave a
    rats ass about her numbers or sizes when she was putting on a show for them.

  5. Pete Powell

    Pete Powell

    July 10, 2016 at 4:22 am

    I read she had a 35 inch bust which would be too big for fashion modelling now. A 35 inch bust is a UK size 10 to 12 or a US size 8. Most fashion models now have to be at the most a UK size 8. Plus she had thighs and many fashion models have bird legs, where their thighs are as thin as their shins.

    • Laura

      Laura

      September 9, 2016 at 10:14 pm

      35″ bust is a UK 8-10, not 10-12. That might be what you tell your fella/mates, but it’s a load of rubbish.
      She could have quite easily been a 35″ bust but that would mean all the way round the largest part, making her probably around a 28-30F.
      People please educate yourself about sizing, ESPECIALLY BRA SIZING!!!

  6. Latricia

    Latricia

    April 21, 2016 at 7:51 am

    Haha, shouldn’t you be charging for that kind of knegoedwl?!

  7. Joe Smith

    Joe Smith

    July 22, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    Women arguing about bra sizes while they should be in the kitchen.

    • M

      M

      October 14, 2015 at 8:10 am

      Ass hole

    • kalst

      kalst

      November 3, 2015 at 10:11 am

      yes, women “should be in the kitchen”, but put it in different terms. against my will I was put in the kitchen. but for my own good.

      I do think Marilyn Monroe weighed more than what the inet claims as 140, im 174 and she had to be more than 140 lbs.

      • Adam

        Adam

        December 23, 2015 at 6:10 pm

        kaist you don’t have a clue. She was only 5’5″ tall and weighed between 118-125 during her career.

      • Kristy

        Kristy

        August 23, 2016 at 6:37 am

        Idk her body besides her large chest and thighs was all small

    • Liz Adams

      Liz Adams

      December 1, 2015 at 6:21 am

      @Joe Smith: men know how to cook. Have at it dude. You Hungry? Get your sorry a.. in the kitchen and fix yourself and me something to eat.

      • Kuba

        Kuba

        December 24, 2015 at 12:25 am

        I can totally retale! I have this issue right now and I’m fed up of dealing with the same things time and time again how many times can you forgive and forget things before actually getting fed up or sick and tired of it?

    • Taylor

      Taylor

      May 26, 2016 at 4:10 am

      Lol

    • Pete Powell

      Pete Powell

      July 10, 2016 at 4:23 am

      There’s always one loser man in every comment section whinging on about women, and you’re it.

    • Kristy

      Kristy

      August 23, 2016 at 6:36 am

      Your comment almost made sense

  8. lulu

    lulu

    June 20, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    If you look at most of her pictures, she was pretty thin. Her body had curves, but she wasn’t overly large in her breast or bottom. She had incidents where she put on a few extra pounds and looked good, but there are only a few pictures of her with a bit of extra weight- they are just so popular, people tend to equate her body with those pictures.

  9. curvyone

    curvyone

    June 9, 2015 at 10:42 pm

    Marilyn was small by today’s average American woman. She’s also much curvier than the average bone-thin actress of today. I had close to her measurements in high school, but not her height at only 5’3″ My measurements were 34B- 24- 34, so apparently I was/am an hourglass, and proud to be one. Back then in the 80s I was wearing a junior size 5 or 7. Today I am a size misses 8/10. Fifteen years ago I would have had to weigh 125 lbs to fit into a size 8. I am 30 lbs heavier and still fit most size 8 clothes. Proof vanity sizing exists.

    • Michael

      Michael

      August 6, 2015 at 2:58 pm

      Curvy is the opposite of fat and thick.

  10. BeautyWithin

    BeautyWithin

    April 4, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    Having an extreme hour glass figure myself,I try to not get hung up on sizes but measurements never lie. It really depends upon the article of clothing to determine the size. My sizes range from M to XXL. If it’s jeans size 10, if it’s dress slacks 14-16. If it’s a long skirt size 10, shorter skirt size 12-14. If it’s a button-down shirt probably not a good idea. If it’s winter in Chicago – my 26″ waist plays no part in my XXL coat zipping up over my sweater packing 36DDD’s.

    Beauty is in the heart and mind.

  11. Curiouser49

    Curiouser49

    October 17, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Mayilyn was just a beautiful woman – weight fluxuation or not. Her life was very sad and it only goes to show you that in the end, weight, looks, money – don’t bring you happiness. You make your own happiness when you find what brings you happiness.

  12. Jayla

    Jayla

    August 19, 2014 at 12:21 am

    Bras don’t typically come in size 35. And you would not usually buy a size smaller. You buy the bigger size. Her bra size alone would need a bigger size top. she was probably a 4 to 12 by todays standard. Depending on her weight fluctuations. As much as 50 lbs. You also have to take into account weight distribution and bone structure. Two people same weight and height could look dramatically different due to bone structure. Bigger bone structure will look bigger. As well as where the weight is deposited. Her breast could have weighed 20 lbs alone.

    • Jan

      Jan

      November 28, 2014 at 7:16 am

      The number in a bra size refers to the under bust measurement, not the full bust, therefore with measurements 35-22-35 and a D cup I’d be expecting her to be a 30D or a 32D at most.

      • Anita

        Anita

        April 6, 2015 at 12:29 am

        That’s not true, bras are made so that the band measurement is in reality the widest part of the bust. Not the measurement of the under bust. If you take one of your bras and measure the band itself it will not be equal to the size the bra is labelled as. I wear a 32D, and my widest part of my chest is 32″, but my under bust is only 27″, but obviously I don’t wear a size 27D. Therefore she defiantly would have fit a 36D.

        • Rose

          Rose

          June 9, 2015 at 8:34 am

          Oh Anita, you poor thing.
          You aren’t a 32D. Based on your measurements you’d wear a 28DD, or a 30DD or even a 30D.
          The number in your band measurement, also known as the under bust measurement. The letter represents how many inches bigger you’re bust is.
          Please, quit confusing yourself and making a fool out of yourself.

      • Rose

        Rose

        June 9, 2015 at 8:36 am

        And you jab
        Jan. If she wears a 32, she’s be a 32C. Of she’s a 30, she’d be a 30DD or 32D (sister size). In order to be a 36D, her bust would have to be at 40 instead of 35. But oh well.

        • Rose

          Rose

          June 9, 2015 at 8:38 am

          Jan*

  13. Dorota

    Dorota

    July 11, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Wait, wait, wait! Bust 35” and bra size 36 D? Makes no sense, and means, that she was wider under breasts than in bust.

    • Jan

      Jan

      November 28, 2014 at 7:11 am

      I was thinking the exact same thing! 😀

    • Rose

      Rose

      June 9, 2015 at 8:29 am

      When the measurement is an odd number you round up or down. Depends on how tight you want the band. It makes complete sense. It would make sense to you two too, if you took the time to self educate about bras.

      • Rose

        Rose

        June 9, 2015 at 8:38 am

        Things were measured differently back then*

        • kalst

          kalst

          November 3, 2015 at 10:12 am

          how about scales, like doctor scales, probly the same as today.

    • didi

      didi

      June 11, 2015 at 6:29 pm

      of course it makes sense. if your waist is SO small – 22 inches, you can easily have 36D. i have the same bust – 35 inches, but my waist is 30 and I am 36B. if i’d have such a big boobs on my broad chest, my bra size would be like… F or G.

  14. Sarah Meade

    Sarah Meade

    June 3, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    It’s not a “myth” though since it’s true. It’s just misunderstood.

    It would be like a person telling a child “I used to buy ___ for $1″ when I was a kid,” then not explaining that a dollar had more value back then. Today, retail sizes are vastly different.

    The sizing from the 1950’s is still used in the fashion industry for patterns. McCall’s is a common pattern brand and if you check the Misses size 12 you’ll see Marilyn fits (except her tiny waist!)

  15. Autumn

    Autumn

    May 21, 2014 at 12:02 am

    This is now the second article I’ve seen where the author says, “No one knows where this myth got started…” It got started in the movie “The Misfits” where Marilyn herself says that she is a size 12. Clark Gable repeats that size later on in the movie. Why would people write an article about Marilyn Monroe if they’ve never even watched her movies??? Please do some research before writing something!!

    • Nooa

      Nooa

      May 29, 2015 at 2:19 pm

      Yes but as the author said a size 12 in the 50’s would probably be a size 4 today, so that’s the confusion. Yes she was a 1950’s size 12. Everyone forgets that they got rid of universal sizing in the 80’s as everyone got bigger.

    • Fat Hater

      Fat Hater

      June 18, 2015 at 6:25 am

      Did you even read the article? Or were you too busy chomping down on a greasy pizza to bother look up to the screen? She had a 22 inch waist, so compare that to what your waist size is now. Let me guess..over 40 inches?

      • Jennifer

        Jennifer

        July 4, 2015 at 4:48 pm

        Don’t be fat hatin on people when you are obviously sitting home alone jerkin off to kiddie porn. You sick piece of shit. Why aren’t you dead yet?

      • laura

        laura

        July 27, 2015 at 9:22 pm

        Fat hater, you are vicious jackass. Why don’t you get off your high and mighty throne.
        Wow..you must not deal with people much.

    • huh

      huh

      September 7, 2016 at 6:23 pm

      so something said in a MOVIE is true? Not a documentary. A MOVIE. Lord help us.

  16. Katiesdfctvv

    Katiesdfctvv

    March 27, 2014 at 7:41 pm

    That’s interesting….if they really were Marilyn’s measurements, then apart from the height, I am exactly the same…

  17. Collette Marie Gallegos

    Collette Marie Gallegos

    January 13, 2014 at 6:04 am

    I still believe Marilyn was a few sizes larger, she was the top icon of her day explaining the reason for that day and age waistline average of American trend. Men are all about sizing up women for their own dominate pursuit, they’ll say anything comparably compatible to make women what ever the hell they may bond together over to fullfill their sik demented won over by masturbate minds!

    • Trs Edwards

      Trs Edwards

      August 1, 2015 at 5:29 pm

      the only problem with your supposition is that they numbers presented are actual numbers…they are not opinion oriented…male nor female…they are numeric data.

  18. noelani

    noelani

    December 7, 2013 at 2:19 am

    Her weight fluctuated quite a bit, as much as 50 pounds, I would say. She was fortunate that the weight went on proportionately. If you look at the nude photos that were used in the first edition of Playboy Magazine, her breasts were not large at all. They never were huge, they were just well-shaped and high and quality is more important than quantity!

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